One of the most successful development studios to ever hit the AppStore is, without a doubt, Gameloft. With over 100 iOS titles, and a $164 MILLION revenue, it’s hard to dispute that. Whether you hate or love em, they know what they’re doing, and have created some amazing titles. One of their most well-known and loved series has to be N.O.V.A. (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance), releasing the 3rd title in the series earlier this year, this ‘Halo-Clone’ is one of the most popular games in the AppStore. The first N.O.V.A. won IGN’s Best Action Game of the Year, won Pocket Gamer’s Gold Award, and was praised by just about every review site known to the iOS gaming community. A year later, N.O.V.A. 2 – The Hero Rises Again, again won Pocket Gamer’s Gold Award, and was praised even more than the first. A year and a half after N.O.V.A. 2 hit, it was again time for Kal Warden to battle it out, this time, on Earth, in N.O.V.A. 3.
Like the previous N.O.V.A. titles, N.O.V.A. 3 has both a single player campaign mode, as well as a multiplayer mode (both online and local wi-fi). The single player story mode contains 10 huge levels with about 6-8 hours of gameplay. Like the previous titles, the difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game at a pretty constant and manageable rate. Unfortunately, there are no separate difficulty settings like the previous 2 titles, though some might prefer this; you either can or can not beat the single player campaign, and beating it gives more a sense of completion, because you’ve gone through the exact same thing as everyone else.
So, you might be asking yourself; ‘That’s nice and all, but is there anything in the way of rewards if I completely kick the games butt?’ Gameloft has thought of that too. N.O.V.A. 3 contains an in-game store, where you’re able to spend currency to procure some pretty unique weapons. At the end of each level, you’re rewarded with this currency depending on how well you preformed throughout the stage. This is a great addition, even though you’re also able to purchase the currency through IAPs, the reward for doing good is there.
Now, what will really suck away most of your time is the online Multiplayer Mode. This time around, you’re able to have up to 12 players, which, for the iOS, is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, there are only 6 maps, but hopefully, like N.O.V.A. 2, more maps will be added in future updates. You are able to choose between 6 different gameplay modes; Free-For-All, Team Deathmatch, Freeze Tag, Capture The Flag, Capture The Point and InstaGib. You’re also able to set time and kill limits as well. Another aspect that makes the Multiplayer Mode great is that, for the first time, multiple players can jump into the same vehicle, allowing for loads of destruction.
Not into Online gameplay? Not to worry. N.O.V.A. 3, carrying on with the N.O.V.A. story, has got to be the best title in the series. The graphics have had a pretty big step up from the last two, and the game plays more like an actual console game. I was very impressed on several occasions while making my way through the game, and was even reminded of F.E.A.R. 3 more than once (maybe this had to do with the slow-motion sections, I’m not sure). It’s definitely one of the very few First-Person-Shooters on the iOS that’s going to be a blast playing through a second, or even third time. The animations are also a huge step up from the last two, with fantastic explosions, smooth movement, and nice death scenes.
Chances are, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ve already picked this up. But on the off chance that you haven’t, you need to. N.O.V.A. 3 could very well be the best FPS available for the iDevice. Even though there are some issues, a lot of the Multiplayer problems have been fixed via the latest update (Version 1.0.1). There are pretty long loading times, though this is very understandable once you see what the game was loading, and there is some occasional slowdown during hectic gameplay, though nothing game-breaking, it’s worth noting. The online features do have some occasional lag, which results in players jumping around on screen, and some pretty nasty hit detection, but again, this is only occasional, and is not game-breaking. Like most online multiplayer games, there are issues to be worked out, as not every iDevice with every OS can be tested on, and things like how old your device is, how used it is, how much space you have, and your internet connection can all play parts in how a game runs on your device. But even with all of this being said; N.O.V.A. 3 is a blast, will only get better, and is highly recommended. Gameloft has once again provided a very well rounded FPS adventure. One that’s definitely worth experiencing.
Sci-fi adventure/aerial combat titles are a bit of a rarity in the AppStore. Galaxy on Fire, Dangerous, No Gravity, Warpgate and Star Battalion are basically it when it comes to the genre. Luckily, fans of the genre can rejoice once more, as InsurgentX Entertainment has added a new game into the mix; Acheron Prime, a sci-fi aerial combat RPG adventure title set in a dystopian future of Earth. Now, with the overall polish and larger studio that Fishlabs has (55 employees), it’s pretty clear that a game matching or out-shining Galaxy On Fire won’t happen any time soon, and I accepted that fact quite some time ago. So the real question is; Does Acheron Prime stand up as an aerial combat/sci-fi adventure title worthy of sinking hours and hours into? Well, hopefully you’ll be able to decide after reading this review.
Acheron Prime starts off in a rather beautiful and seemingly peaceful section of space in the year 2500. Of course, that silence ends very quickly, and you find yourself under attack. Here is where you’re introduced to Kirika, your main character, and LISA (Logistics Interface Strategic Analyzer), the AI construct within her brain, and a short gameplay tutorial. You’re given a joystick for movement, 3 buttons for ship control, and an accelerate/decelerate button. In the middle of the screen you’ll find your shield, hull health and speed + energy meters. You’re also able to rotate your ship by dragging your finger across the center of the screen.
After destroying the smaller fighters, a Mothership arrives, and you hyperdrive your way outta there. After a cut-scene, you’re taken to a major docking ship. Here, you get a little plot information, and learn the basics for maneuvering around within these areas. Seems you’re an Imperial Officer, yet the Mothership that came after you had Imperial Insignia on it. Looks like you’ve got a lot to figure out. But that’ll come later. You’re taken to the hanger to purchase a ship, and outfit it with a gun and radar. After unsuccessfully trying to get further away from the area, you start the main gaming session. Doing seemingly random small tasks to help get you where you need to go, find who you need to find, and learn what you need to learn.
The game is set up a lot like Galaxy on Fire, following the same basic outline. However, as you progress throughout the game, you’ll find out that Acheron Prime is more focused on the RPG elements and combat sessions rather than mining and trading. Traveling does seem to take a little longer, but there is a Fast Forward button that appears on screen for these sections, which really does help it not drag on. Another anti-GoF aspect is the world of Acheron Prime. Instead of spanning across an entire galaxy, Acheron Prime is limited to the Solar-System. This does help in regard to remembering areas, and knowing whereabouts you’ll be going when heading on missions.
Graphically, Acheron Prime doesn’t have all the flash and glamour that GoF contains, but it’s still very well designed. The space environments are beautiful, the ship designs are very well thought out, and every other object is wonderfully crafted. Animations are also very well done, with the explosions looking especially nice. Combined with some very energetic music, but not digging all the way into the techno genre, the effects and BGM do help add to the immersion of the game. The voice acting, like most iOS specific games, is a little cheesy, but I found it to be on the same level, if not better, than Galaxy on Fire’s voice acting, which is pretty impressive.
Also fairly impressive is the amount of content in the game. Apparently, the campaign is a full 40-50 OR MORE hours long. Combined with the outstanding gameplay, and really nice equip system, Acheron Prime really feels like a full blown major console game that’s been ported over to the iOS. If the voice acting was a little better, it could easily pass as a PS2 or XBOX title. The difficulty level is also something that separates it from other titles within the genre, as it will definitely give gamers a challenge.
Again, there won’t ever be another Galaxy on Fire, but it’s incredibly surprising that a 4 man team made a real contender for one of the best sci-fi adventure/aerial combat titles on the iOS. Being Universal and priced at $5.99, fans of the genre will not regret picking this up. Hopefully we’ll be able to see some add-ons like GoF, as I have the feeling I’m definitely going to want more after I complete the game. GameCenter is also supported, with 10 achievements that add some exploration aspects to the game. I did encounter one little issue; when I received a notification on my iPad 2 while playing, the sound cut out, and would not come back. Even after another loading screen. To get the sound and music back, I had to exit the game, and clear it from my multitasking bar, then restart it. Aside from that, I haven’t come across any issues. InsurgentX has definitely provided iOS gamers with a solid, console quality Space Adventure. It’s one that should not be missed, especially if you felt Galaxy on Fire lacked some RPG elements and needed more combat.
I’ve been a sucker for exploration games since I started gaming as a child. When I got Metroid II at the age of 10, and spent months playing it, I was hooked. From then on out, any game that had exploration as a main mechanic hit the huge part of my brain dedicated to gaming. Over the years, I’ve also become very interested in aliens and cyberpunk literature as well as manga. My father was a chemist, so science; biology, geology and math have all been a huge part of my life as well.
None of this really matters, except that Lightstorm3D has just released a game called Gene Effect, and it encompasses environmental puzzles, exploration, and an amazing back-story of researchers and miners finding teleportation devices hidden on Mars during mining expeditions around the year 2050. Basically incorporating everything I surround myself with. So it’s no wonder I’m instantly fascinated by the game.
The story starts in 2033, with the first manned NASA mission to land on Mars is started. Once they land in 2034, build a base camp, and start their 16 month stay, the crew explores a 75 mile radius around their camp, collecting soil samples. After returning, a coalition of industrial nations and private investors found the GSA – Global Space Alliance, who’s main objective is to colonize Mars, and start mining the planets resources. Some time later, teleportation devices were found while mining, and a huge expedition for more starts up. While in a mine, one of the mining crews crashes, and this is where you come in, sent into the mines to find the ship and crew. The story has a LOT more to it than that, but what fun is ruining it for our readers? There’s an entire Chronicle section within the game, which gives you quite a bit of a backstory, and grows as you unlock more information throughout the game.
The story is a huge part of the game, but the game lacks any sort of cut-scenes. So you’ll have to read if you want to find out more. This isn’t required to actually complete the game, but it definitely adds to the incredible immersion.
Now, the gameplay can be incredibly immersive by itself as well. You’ll control your mining ship with a virtual joystick and two buttons, one for your repulsor, which you can use to blow up rocks with a seismic blast, clearing paths, and uncovering hidden objects, and another button for T-Drone (Termination Drone), which launches missiles to clear out extremely hazardous areas before entering. The physics are another fantastic aspect of Gene Effect, with great collision detection, collision speed and damage detection, weight of the mining vessel, impact reactions, falling rocks, and even gravity manipulators having been tweaked to convey realism and increase the immersion in this sci-fi world.
Each Mission has certain objectives which you’ll need to achieve either before progressing to the next area of a level, or completing the stage. These range from collecting DNA samples, to finding different resources like Koronite (the main orange material which you’ll be collecting a ton of), and taking it to certain drop off areas within the levels, or collecting red, blue, and yellow crystal energy to start up reactors, as well as searching for sensors to unlock doors, and more.
As you progress through the game, the story opens up drastically, as do the levels. At the beginning of the game, levels can be completed as fast as 30 seconds, but very quickly expand to levels with speed run times of 7 minutes or more, and will usually take around 20 minutes to complete your first time through. A pretty major drawback of this is that there’s no multitasking support, and no mid-level checkpoints, which means that this is not really a pick-up-and-play game. Luckily, there’s plenty of quick pick up n play games available, with incredibly immersive, sit-down for a 2 hour gameplay session games are few and far between, which definitely makes Gene Effect stand out within the AppStore.
Adding replay value to the game, each stage also has a set of medals which you can earn for getting a high-score. There’s bronze, silver, and gold medals available for each Mission, as well as medals for perfect navigation, which is completing a level without crashing into any objects, and time, which you’ll receive for completing the Mission quicker than the allotted time. If you can grab the gold medal, and get both medals, you’re awarded a special full completion medal. There are also hidden relic items in every level, and 12 hidden artifacts that you can use to upgrade your ship scattered throughout the game.
The graphics and animations, as well as the lighting effects, are incredible. The extreme attention to detail, especially with the environments, with the plant-life, and backgrounds for the caves, as well as movement of plant-life and all of the mechanical devices within the world of Gene Effect are insanely impressive. Sadly, there’s another drawback with this at the moment. The game is only built for the iPhone/iPod Touch, which means that you’ll be playing on your iPad in 2X mode, making the game pretty pixilated. The good news is that an update which will make the game Universal is in the works for the future, as are more lighting options and performance and graphical tweaking. But as it is now, the environments look incredible, and make Gene Effect a game that you’ll want to show off to friends.
Lightstorm3D has definitely shown that they know exactly what it takes to make an amazingly immersive, incredibly depthy game with Gene Effect. The story, gameplay, graphics, controls, music, everything about the game really stands out as top-notch. Even without having GameCenter integration with no online achievements, or leader boards, it has a great amount of replay value that will drive completionists batty. Fans of exploration, sci-fi, mining, action, adventure and even puzzle games would do well to get this on their device as soon as possible. Gene Effect is definitely a game that stands out as a true console-like experience in an AppStore full of casual pick-up-and-play flash games. The $5 price of admission is well worth the journey you’ll be privileged to experience, and is highly recommended to all gamers looking for something more from the games on their iDevice. I sincerely hope iOS gamers will be able to see more from Lightstorm3D. It’s games like this that give me hope that the iDevice will grow into a serious gaming platform in the near future.
Sci-Fi Sim Adventure. The genre’s completely new to me, but I don’t think I could have picked a better game to introduce me to the genre than DigitalFrog’s Space Frontier. Starting off, it has a great interactive tutorial that’s very easy to understand and shows you exactly what you need to know in order to make it through the game. During the tutorial, you’ll notice how much work has obviously gone into creating a great looking universe to play in, with loads of details, great object and item designs, and a fantastic atmosphere.
So, the whole object of the game is to build houses and make money, out in space. There will be some competition, especially from a character named Felipe, and his android, Doomsday, both with egos larger than the solar system you’ll be competing in. There are a bunch of little things you’ll need to keep your eyes on while you’re in the process of trying to build and make money. The sector that you’re building on will have a safety meter, which slowly decreases as you progress through each level, you’ll need to spend money to constantly keep this meter as high as you can so that your sector is not hit my an asteroid, which could destroy or damage buildings. Also, building your different types of houses requires you to spend minerals, which you will need to buy to replenish, as well as requires you to have enough robots to build them. This means that if you have 4 robots, you can only build a couple houses at a time, sometimes only one building at a time, depending on how many robots it takes to build that specific object.
After you build a house, it will start to earn you income. The total income you have is shown in your ‘income bar’ which is constantly being filled up. Once it becomes full, the income in the bar is transferred over to your bank, and once it’s there, you can spend it, buying more minerals, increasing your sector’s safety, buying more robots, or even buying the A.I.’s buildings. Each building can be upgraded, which will increase it’s amount of income, but can only be leveled up 3 times. It is worth leveling up all of your buildings, as it can more than double it’s original income amount. You’re also able to terraform your houses, giving the sector more O2, and increasing your income slightly as well.
Now, I know this technical stuff sounds kind of boring, but if you’re into simulation games, I think you know where all of this is going. There are 40 missions, or stages, that you’ll need to complete in order to beat Felipe. Each mission gives you certain tasks which you must complete in a given amount of time. You aren’t necessarily required to beat this time, but Felipe’s time is marked on the timer, and if you want to beat him, you will need to beat his mission times. As you progress though the game, you will unlock more and more buildings which will help you gather income, raise money, and fund the sectors. You are able to build, buy, sell, and destruct buildings, each of which has different attributes, different amounts of income, and effects your sector differently. Each time you start a mission, you are given a certain amount of cash in the bank, a certain amount of robots, and a certain amount of minerals, once the minerals and original bank money is depleted, you will be required to refill these on your own.
It might take multiple tries to beat each of Felipe’s times, but once you get the hang of everything, and multitasking, constantly keeping your eyes on the sectors safety, income, bank, minerals, and task progression. One thing I would absolutely love to see added in the future would be GameCenter. DigitalFrog has provided an in-game leaderboard that connects to their servers, which does help with the cheaters on GameCenter, but it takes away from competing against your GameCenter friends. Thankfully, there are in-game achievements. 54 to be exact. Some gamers love it when developers have their own leaderboards and achievement systems. I happen to be someone who happens to like when developers do this, but do understand why people want GameCenter integration. Still, it’s hard to say that no GameCenter is an issue when the developers do such a great job with their own in-game leaderboard and achievements like DigitalFrog has done here. You are awarded scores based on how quickly you complete the missions, and you can replay each mission, so making your way up the leader board, as well as competing against Felipe’s times does add quite a bit of replay value to the game. There’s also a Casual Mode that’s unlocked once you complete all of the regular campaign missions. For my first Sci-fi Simulation Adventure game, you can color me extremely impressed, and be sure that I’ll be searching the AppStore (and Steam) for more games in this genre. $3.99 is really a great price for the amount and quality of the content provided here with Space Frontier, and better yet, it‘s Universal! If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s one title you definitely need to check out, and if you’ve never heard of the genre, Space Frontier is probably one of the best, if not the best, game that you could first get, as you’ll end up being hooked from the moment you complete the tutorial levels.
Science Fiction Real Time Strategy. A genre pretty much left untapped within the AppStore, there’s only a few titles that cover the 4X gameplay, but the ones that do are premium priced for a reason; extremely deep, intuitive user interface, hours upon hours of gameplay, endless replayabilty with almost endless results, and very strategic gameplay just to mention some biggies. Luckily for fans of the genre, Orator Games has just released Blue Libra. Not exactly a 4X game, but a mix between 4X and Galcon type gameplay gives hardcore fans of the genre something for quick plays, with more strategy and depth than any Galcon game, and new-comers to the genre something to help them get acquainted with the style. And at $0.99 ($2.99 for the HD/iPad Version), there’s pretty much no reason not to check it out.
You’ll command the last of the Libra class of carriers to avenge the fall of your home world. Your main goal? Make your way across the galaxy back to your home world, destroying anyone who stands in your way. You’ll need to produce different types of ships, and take over planets and space stations, getting rid of the opposing force in each sector, upgrading your ships and main Libra carrier with multiple upgrades available in the shop, so that you can be sure to have the power and ability to take on anything that might be thrown your way. One wrong move, and you could wind up with a loss.
As for the controls, they’re fairly intuitive. Fleets are all produced by your Libra carrier, and any planets or space stations you take over. These fleets are grouped together in a circle, and can be merged by drawing a line, which automatically snaps to a straight line, no matter how wobbly you draw it, between the two. To move a fleet, simply draw a line to the planet or station you wish to move to. You can cut a whole fleet in half by slicing it, ala Fruit Ninja, and the fleet will split in half with each half having, as close to, half of all ships as it can. This does take away a bit from the strategic element, as your groups of ships can not be split up to best serve the situation that they’re going in to, but instead give “my bigger fleet will take over your smaller fleet” gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing, exactly, as there are still times in the game where you will need to decide before hand what ships to produce to best serve the mission, and how many resources to set up building those ships, but being able to decide exactly what type of ships are sent where would have added quite a bit more strategic gameplay and depth to the game. There are obstacles in some of the sectors, like asteroid belts, which slow you down significantly, and these are best gone around if at all possible, to do this, you’ll just need to draw a line around the obstacle, and stop short of where you want to move to so that the line does not snap to a straight shot. The screen automatically pans while you’re making your line, dragging on the screen, which is very handy. You can set the pan speed in the options menu as well.
There are 15 missions leading you back to your home world, and beating a lot of them will take multiple play throughs. The difficulty curve is great, and increases at a pretty steady rate. There is no online support, but with gameplay like Blue Libra’s, there isn’t much need for GameCenter. Being able to share your final tallies, like how many total ships you lost/destroyed, how long it took you to make it back to your home world, and little stats like this would be nice, but is not really considered the end goal by fans of the genre.
Again, at $0.99, there’s very little reason not to grab it, whether you’re a hardcore 4X RTS fan, or even if you’ve never played a Sci-Fi RTS before, it stretches across a wide length of skill levels, and provides simple yet still depthy gameplay. It’s definitely a title worth checking out, and one that you can easily sink hours upon hours into.